Growing up with parents from different states meant I was introduced to lots of weird regional food. For example: Taylor Pork Roll in New Jersey and dessert "salads" in Minnesota. What is a dessert salad? It's a child's delight. Made with some combination of gelatin, whipped topping, pudding mix, canned fruit and marshmallows, it comes in lovely shades of pastels. Sometimes we call it fluff salad, but salad it is not. This sweet glop is a common side dish at potlucks and parties in the Midwest. Even my parents' wedding reception. If you're from a certain part of the country, you know about "fluff." If not, it can be polarizing. When I brought a bowl to work recently, some of my co-workers grimaced. But when I posted a photo of that bowl on Instagram, it became my most-liked photo of the year so far. Given our extreme Florida heat this time of year, I thought it would be a good time to introduce the rest of you to these fluffy indulgences. They're easy; no baking necessary. The hardest part is waiting for them chill before diving in. These five ideas go beyond the typical ambrosia salad.
Brittany Volk, Times staff writer
Orange Fluff Salad
Let's start with a classic: my grandmother's favorite recipe. This is always served at family gatherings. Combine 1 box orange Jell-O mix, 1 box tapioca pudding mix and 4 cups boiling water in a large bowl. Put in the fridge until set. Once set, fold in 1 (8-ounce) container thawed Cool Whip, 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, not drained, and 1 (8-ounce) can drained mandarin oranges. Refrigerate again for 2 to 3 hours before serving. Recipe from Rose Veenhof of Edgerton, Minn.
Snickers Caramel Apple Salad
This fluff reminds me of when my mom kept a bag of fun-size Snickers candy bars in our freezer during the summer. Start with 6 small apples, a blend of Granny Smith and Red Delicious, and core and chop them. Cut 6 full-size Snickers bars into bite-sized pieces. Whisk together 1 box instant vanilla pudding mix and ½ cup milk in a large bowl. Fold in 1 (12-ounce) container thawed Cool Whip, chopped apples and Snickers and 1 cup marshmallows. Drizzle ½ cup caramel sauce on top and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 12. Recipe from spicysouthernkitchen.com.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Fluff Salad
Sweet and salty, this salad satisfies a crowd. In a large bowl, beat together 4 ounces cream cheese, ¼ cup peanut butter, 2 tablespoons grape jam and 1 tablespoon milk. Gently stir in 2 cups mini marshmallows and 2 cups red seedless grapes. Fold in 1 (8-ounce) container thawed Cool Whip until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 1 hour. Garnish with sprinkles, extra marshmallows and crushed peanuts. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe from thenymelrosefamily.com.
Banana Split Fluff Salad
Serve this salad with graham crackers for dipping. Mix together 1 box instant banana pudding mix and 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, not drained. Stir until dissolved and thickened. Fold in 1 (8-ounce) container thawed Cool Whip. Gently stir in 1 cup mini marshmallows, ½ cup finely chopped walnuts, ½ cup mini chocolate chips, 2 sliced bananas and 1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries, halved. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to chill. Garnish with more chopped walnuts. Makes about 8 cups. Recipe from insidebrucrewlife.com.
S'mores Cheesecake Fluff
Guests will definitely want s'more of this fluff. (Sorry.) In a bowl, mix together 2 (8-ounce) blocks softened cream cheese and 1 cup powdered sugar until combined. In another bowl, heat 10 ounces marshmallows and 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave on high in intervals of 30 seconds until melted. Immediately add cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 2 cups heavy whipping cream and beat on high for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Once cheesecake has cooled, break 1 package graham crackers into small pieces and toss into the mixture. Chop 3 Hershey chocolate bars and stir into cheesecake mixture. Serves 8. Recipe from tornadoughalli.com.